(This is another in the Why You Should Never Live With… series. Unreliable Narrator here. Chick-Lit Heroine here. Cop From A Crime Novel here. Young Adult Protagonist here. Literary Fiction Hero here. Romantic Hero here. Historical Fiction Hero here. Women’s Fiction Husband here.)
It’s the weekend. The sun is shining, and you just had the most marvellous avocado-laden brunch in town with friends. You open the door of your ultra-modern duplex. Suddenly, an unseasonably chill wind blows, and you feel the urge to brush cobwebs from your ears. Not for the first time, you peer with confusion at the dingy patterned wallpaper in your oddly dark hallway, and wonder how it got there. You smell fresh onions and old sweat, and turn around. Historical TV Drama Woman is behind you, wearing a frayed muslin dress which was once elegantly pretty – a long time ago. Her bottom half is swathed in six layers of petticoats. Her top half is a different matter entirely.
You: Christ! What happened to you?
Historical TV Drama Woman: Why do you ask?
You: Your dress – the bodice is ripped right down the middle!
HTVDW: [dazed] I beg your pardon?
You: It’s just that you’re – um – more or less topless. Your – ah – bosoms are hanging out.
HTVDW: [clutching the sides of her bodice ineffectually together and screaming] My Lord!
[Historical TV Drama Woman paws at her bodice, in attempt to re-lace her bosoms into their implausibly fragile bindings. Unfortunately, the effect is somewhat pornographic, and you look away with difficulty: however, you are unable to resist another peek, which causes embarrassment. And shame. Don’t forget the shame.]
HTVDW: While you were out, I heard a knocking. I was making dough in the kitchen, even though I have neither the hands nor the skill for it, being as I am a genteel woman fallen upon hard times, and forced to take up a situation which is as alien to me as the notion of equal rights for a mere female with no protector to guide her through life’s rocky path of pain.
You: For someone who thinks equality is an alien notion, you sure talk about it a lot.
HTVDW: I am but a woman of my time. Yet I am no man’s property!
You: I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’m constantly asking you to open your own bank account – and possibly pay some bills around here.
HTVDW: What – hold my own money in my hands? Tend to business as if I were a man? But that is madness!
You: Whatever. Just tell me what happened today.
HTVDW: Well, I attended to the door.
You: I’ve asked you before not to open the door when I’m not here. Something bad always happens.
HTVDW: Whatever do you mean?
You: Well, you were attacked twice, last week alone.
HTVDW: But that is my lot, is it not?
You: [angrily] It’s NOBODY’S lot in life to be raped, for God’s sake! I don’t care if you’re fictional!
HTVDW: Except it is actually in my contract. Up to three times in each series, in fact. It’s all there in black and white. Bosoms to be bared every twenty minutes, ravishment or attempted ravishment on the half hour, double that in each penultimate episode.
You: That still doesn’t make it right!
HTVDW: Talk to the hand. My friend Mildred has been ravished in no less than six different productions. Mind you, she has the most excellent bosoms.
You: This is all making me extremely uncomfortable. Can you please just tell me what happened to you today?
HTVDW: I ran to the door with a glad heart, thinking it might be you, that you had forgotten something, such as your hat; or, perhaps, that you had come back for me. I live for the day when I can go about on your arm in company, and call you my Lord.
You: There are so many things wrong with that, I don’t know where to start. I mean, I don’t own a hat, and we haven’t even established which gender I am.
HTVDW: I opened the door, but there was no-one there. I became afraid.
You: Please tell me this isn’t another ghost thing. There’s only so much a gender-fluid comic foil can take.
HTVDW: I remembered your admonishments about superstition, and I resolved that I would not be weak.
You: I never said you were weak. You’re actually a very strong person, except for when you’re being attacked, or in love. Or needing money for something. Or hungry. Or when you faint. You do faint rather a lot.
HTVDW: So I fetched my weapon, and entered the corridor.
You: Your weapon? What weapon?
HTVDW: The stunted club from the front room. The one which stops the violence.
You: I have a club in my front room?
HTVDW: Of course. The small one, with the buttons. The magical club which you use at night, to bring an end to the battles on the box.
You: Do you mean the remote control? You went outside armed with a TV remote?
HTVDW: I saw a strange man outside, and pointed it at him, just as you do.
You: I think I know where this is going.
HTVDW: I pointed, and waved it about, but he did not disappear, so I screamed. After all, I am not due to be ravished again until tomorrow morning. He looked angry.
You: Are you sure he didn’t just look confused?
HTVDW: He stepped towards me most threateningly, so I made to run back inside. But I stepped on the front of my overskirt, which as you know is rather long and very frayed at the edges. I must have ripped my bodice in the process, and my bosoms fell out thusly.
You: You have entire wardrobe of T-shirts and jeans upstairs, yet you almost kill yourself, running from an innocent man in petticoats and a ragged overskirt. How is anyone supposed to keep you safe?
[Historical TV Drama Woman runs to you and clutches your upper bicep, eager longing in her eyes.]
HTVDW: You mean to keep me safe? Oh, I knew you would, kind Sir! You are my saviour and my Lord!
You: Again, I am not your Lord, let alone anyone’s saviour, whichever gender I am. Can you please let go of my arm? The smell of sweat from your rotting gown is threatening to bring up my brunch.
HTVDW: Anything for you, my wondrous protector. [sighing] Should – should I take out my bosoms again?
[You turn away in despair, and take out your phone, grateful you have your estate agent on speed dial.]